The Fourth Woman: Chapter 11 (Alternate Ending)

“Black Rock, Nev. (AP) – A woman found dead in desert has marring the opening of this years ‘Burning Man’ festivities. The cause of death is still being investigated. Authorities have not released her name pending notification of next of kin.”

The search stretched on for days, weeks and even months, but no other sign of the Winap-Denault woman was found in or around the caves. The case might have been forgotten and left as two dusty file boxes on a shelf if it hadn’t been for two off-roaders playing on the ash-white dust of the Black Rock desert.

“Yeah, Sheriff, you need to come out here and see this,” the deputy told his boss via cellphone.

The Deputy refused to explain any further, citing the fact that anyone with the right technology could listen in on what was being said. So as not to belabor the point, the Sheriff said, “Okay, I’m on my way.”

Less than 45 minutes, the Washoe County Sheriff’s helicopter, Raven appeared in the southwestern sky. The pilot deftly touched the skids in the sandy loam despite his inability to clearly see the ground from above due to the dust the rotors kicked up.

The sheriff waited until the blades of the craft had slow sufficiently to allow most of the playa’s dry earth to settle before getting out and joining his deputy. “What’s so important that I had to see this dead body first hand?”

“Something strange about this,” he answered. “I can’t find a single foot, tire print or a drag mark anywhere around her. And from the lack of trauma to the body, it doesn’t seem that she was dropped from a plane or anything. It’s like she simply appeared out of thin air.”

“That’s absurd. The wind probably wiped the prints away.”

“No, sir. There are prints out here from years ago. I mean I can show you were the truck was driven and the horse chased down during the filming of ‘The Misfits.’ They’re still out there.”

The Sheriff rubbed his chin, perplexed by the scene as he stepped closer to the naked body, save for a single sock on her left foot. “Have you taken photographs, yet?”

“First thing after I met with the witnesses, who are over there by my vehicle.”

“Okay. I agree that somethings off here. I’ll notify the coroner’s office and get an evidence team out here.”

He squatted down and touched the alabaster-white skin of the dead woman and shook his head. The Sheriff knew it was going to be a long day as walked back to the helicopter, climbed in and directed the pilot to return to the office.

As the aircraft lifted away, he saw the deputy pulling a yellow tarp from the back of his truck, to use as a cover for the body. The body was laying on it’s left side, as if peacefully at rest.

Hour’s later the county coroner called the sheriff’s direct number. “I can’t find any reason for this woman’s death,” he stated.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” the Sheriff responded. “And I don’t think you’ll ever find a cause.”

“Yeah? Why’s that?”

“She’s been missing nearly 30 years.”

“Bullshit! How can that be? This woman’s 19 or 20 years old, if she’s a day.”

“Look, we’ve run the prints your office sent us three times now. Same result, Marilyn Winap-Denault, born April 5, 1972, went missing July 20, 1991 out by the Lovelock Cave in Pershing.”

“That would make her nearly 46. But…”

“I know…”

“But how? There’s no freezer burns, putrefaction or even mummification. There’s not a mark on her body.”

“If I had the answer to that, we’d be a step closer to solving this thing – but so far I haven’t an explanation. Hell, we can’t even find her next of kin at the moment.”

“So what next?”

“Right now, we’re waiting to see if Pershing County has any files remaining on the case. If they do, we’ll go from there.”

“And if they don’t?”

“We’re gonna have to start from scratch.”

“Something else that’s weird is her stomach content…”


“If I didn’t know better, I’d say she had fried chicken, potato salad and chips for lunch today along with some beer.”

“Don’t know what to tell ya, other than go home, eat, relax and we’ll get back at it come tomorrow morning.”

“Yeah,” the Coroner said, “With a strange case like this, that’ll be easier said than done.”

“I know what you mean,” the Sheriff replied. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” responded the Coroner as he hung up. He looked at the body laying on his autopsy table and mindlessly asked her, “Where in the hell have you been for the 27-years?”

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